8/3/1950 – 7/27/2020

“We live one breath at a time, and life is short and full of difficulties, but God is good. We are blessed with the understanding that God loves each one of us intimately and infinitely.”

– Dr. Chuck Fromm

Devoted husband, father, grandfather, entrepreneur, innovator, lifelong learner, teacher, culture–changer and worship scholar and leader.

IN LOVING MEMORY 8/3/1950 – 7/27/2020

Chuck will be deeply missed by his wife, children, grandchildren and friends, but what he has written and done will fuel students of worship and worshipers until the Lord returns. Now with Jesus, he has joined that great cloud of witnesses, and is likely consumed with worship and catching up with friends and family, just as he loved to do on earth. MARANATHA!

Chuck was preceded to his heavenly home by his Father, Robert and his precious mother, Virginia. He is survived by his wife and soulmate of 37 years, Stephanie Harbin Fromm, and his five children: Nicole Schrautemyer (and husband, LT. AJ Schrautemyer, III), Capt. Wesley R Fromm, Taylor S Fromm, Alexandra E Fromm, and Michaela C Fromm, and two grandchildren (Isla Marie and Albert John Schrautemyer, IV).

Remembering Dr. Chuck Fromm’s Legacy

Dr. Chuck Fromm was instrumental in developing the worship ministry as we know it today. By tirelessly ministering and learning as part of the Jesus Movement, Chuck redefined our modern use of the word worship and advocated for worship leaders’ education and connection. He is a voice at WLM who will be greatly missed and always revered.

Theories that Work: Remembering Dr. Chuck Fromm’s Legacy of Ideas

1960s – Early 1970s

Early Education & Work Life

Fromm graduated from Modesto Junior College in 1970. His dual interests of community and music began there with a major study of annexation law and his formation of a Christian music group, The New Life Singers. After completing a one year Administrative Internship with the City Manager for Costa Mesa, California, Fromm was selected by Yuba City, California to serve as Assistant City Manager. In 1973, Fromm began local outreach concerts with developing bands from the Jesus Movement, ultimately promoting evangelistic concerts up and down the West Coast and planting new churches.

“I was in Yuba City promoting Jesus Music Concerts. I obtained permission from the owner of an abandoned Wentz Supermarket to convert the structure into a concert hall with the help of some donated curtains by the local Hospital.

The first concert was with the Jesus Music band “The Way,” and was held in the Catholic Church across the street!

(We hadn’t finished hanging partition curtains and building the platform at the market).”

Chuck Fromm

1970s – Present

Calling and mission.

In 1975, Chuck accepted an invitation to lead Maranatha! Music from his Uncle Chuck Smith, the pastor of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa. Smith saw the need for a business-minded leader to organize and promote the fledgling ministry of young musicians attending Calvary Chapel. The call turned out to be momentous for Chuck and for worship in Protestant churches across the country and ultimately around the world. For Chuck, it was the beginning of a career in music: recording, concerts and publishing. And the call was the beginning of a personal, professional, and academic exploration of worship. His mission combined the growth of the music business and the use of profits to support outreach.

“I’ll never forget the moment circa 1968. It was the beginning of an adventure that would shape my life and put me on a quest to study, discover, understand, cultivate and encourage New Song in the Church. It would become my mission to merge worship and story and mission in the form of New Song and be part of cheering on worshipers and “releasing the poets,” as Bill Dyrness would express it.

It was what convinced me that the transformational song birthed through the Triune God of heaven and earth through Jesus Christ and the work of His Holy Spirit is essential to life, not only in the church but to the nations around the world.

I was visiting my cousin in Costa Mesa, California, and that was always exciting. We were both around 17 years old and had a lifelong friendship and a history of being able to dream up mischief and execute some fun between us. Now, we were headed on an ad- venture that was to have a personal life-long impact. Little did I realize that I was being set up to hear a New Song.”

[NEW PEOPLE SING A NEW SONG | Excerpt from New Song, Jan/Feb 2010 Worship Leader Magazine]

Fromm spent the next twenty-five years at Maranatha! Music as CEO/President/Pastor initiating The Praise Series; including Instrumental, Latino, Messianic, Colours Instrumental, and Kids Praise Series, Psalms Alive/The Worship Community, Words of Worship, Hymns & Choruses, Songbooks, The Praise Band (collaborating with Greg Laurie), the Worship Leader Workshops, and the groundbreaking The Gospel of John, paraphrased by Pastor Chuck Smith and illustrated by artist Rick Griffin. He founded Maranatha Missions Development (1978), MusicNet (the precursor to CCLI) and Ministry Resource Center (1980). The latter focused on patronage of new artists and is one of the earliest experiments designed to empower grassroots Christian musicians. In recognition of his many contributions to Christian music the Gospel Music Association gave Maranatha! a Lifetime Achievement Award in 1990 and the following year the National Religious Broadcasters presented him with the President’s Award.

“Signing of Maranatha! Music / Word distribution contract circa 1979. In this picture, Jarrell McCracken, who founded Word during the days of the Baylor University Revival (early 50’s), John Wimber (a Maranatha! Board member/consultant and pastor of Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda), Randy Swanson (special projects and events), and Ted Bleymaier.

It was fitting that Maranatha! Music would join Word Music. Word also was born in a Revival as was Maranatha! Music. “Word” of course is the biblical metaphor for JESUS and that is what Maranatha was called for many years.. “Jesus Music.”

– Chuck Fromm

Chuck & Greg Laurie

While at Maranatha! Music, Chuck began a journal, Worship Times, which paved the way to his later work in publishing, education and academic research. In 1992, Chuck co-founded with John Styll Worship Leader magazine, which became the centerpiece of a media company that later encompassed the magazine, Song Discovery, the National Worship Leader Conference, and countless other tools for training those involved in the service of worship. His main concern was always to help others understand the centrality of worship for the Christian life, to see music’s distinctive role in the praise of God, and to help people “pray musically.”

Chuck Fromm with his Uncle Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA

One of Chuck’s first books (in 1981), Back to Basics: A Study of Public Music Ministry (with Davin Seay and Randy Swanson), written for artists and pastors, encouraged them in “returning music to (serving) the people,” and “…redefining the purpose of ministry, looking vertically instead of horizontally.” He is the author of New Song: the Sound of Spiritual Awakening, a paper delivered at Oxford University in 1983, among many other books and articles. In 2006, he received his PhD in Intercultural Studies from Fuller Theological Seminary. His doctoral thesis Textual Communities and New Song In the Multimedia Age: The Routinization of Charisma in The Jesus Movement (for which he received a communication award from Fuller Theological Seminary), has become a ready reference for other scholars, for many author’s books and for student’s doctoral dissertations.

Dr. Chuck Fromm with friends – Steve Esslinger, Skip Heitzig, Levi Lusko and more.

Chuck lectured on Christian music and worship for symposiums, intensives and conferences at Princeton Theological Seminary, Baylor University, Liberty University, Wheaton, Fuller Theological Seminary, The Institute for Worship Studies, among many others, and as an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism. In 2011, he was part of the annual Futures of Entertainment conference at MIT, joining a panel on the Futures of Music.

Dr. Chuck Fromm at Fuller Theological Seminary

Family and friends

While at Maranatha! Music, he met his wife Stephanie, who was finishing her degree in communications at CSUF; they were married (August 19, 1983). Their family began with the birth of Nicole (Jan 2,1986), soon followed by Wesley (June 5,1987), Taylor (Feb 28,1989), Alexandra (Mar 17,1992) and Michaela (Sept 20,1999).

Family and friends were always at the center of Chuck’s universe. As hard as he worked, he also loved to celebrate life and enjoy God’s creation. He loved trips to Hawaii, Yosemite/Bass Lake, (a continued tradition from his childhood) where he and the family’s many friends created fond memories of water-skiing, bumper inner-tubing, bike rides in Yosemite and burgers at Fork’s Resort. Nights at the lake were filled with games and cruising on the water under the stars while indulging in ice cream sundaes in a sand bucket. He had the flair for turning a business trip into something special and history-unfolding for each of his children as they took turns traveling with him.

Chuck took special pride in his children’s accomplishments. He loved cheering them on at graduations and capturing each moment to share on Facebook! His value for education is shown in the achievements of each of his children and the course in life they are pursuing through their individual journeys with the LORD by their side. Walking Nicole down the aisle to marry AJ Schrautemyer III was a proud moment for him as a dad and he was delighted to meet their first child and his first grandchild, Isla Marie (Jan 17,2019) and hold her in his arms. He then met his second grandchild, Albert John IV (Apr 15, 2020) over FaceTime from Japan, where AJ—and family—is deployed. Every member of the Fromm family has participated in various roles at conferences and/or worked at the magazine.

Chuck and Stephanie loved welcoming people to their home, For several years, prior to moving to Franklin, they were privileged to host Bible studies, led by Chuck’s cousin, Chuck Smith, Jr. Fromm was able to utilize his city management experience in guiding what could have been an ugly battle with the city government to resolve changing city ordinances for home gatherings of Bible studies.

Chuck’s circle of friends extends around the globe. He loved connecting with people, sharing ideas, and bouncing off possible projects. Endlessly creative, Chuck constantly peppered friends and co-workers with insights and ideas: one of these became critically acclaimed The Odes Project. Birthed with a few close friends—Michael Moore, Steve Esslinger—Chuck then composed, recorded, and co-produced it with John Andrew Schreiner in collaboration with the worship scholar Hughes Oliphant Old and Dr. James Charlesworth. It was one of his most satisfying accomplishments.

Chuck’s circle of friends extends around the globe. He loved connecting with people, sharing ideas, and bouncing off possible projects. Endlessly creative, Chuck constantly peppered friends and co-workers with insights and ideas: one of these became critically acclaimed The Odes Project.

Never-ending sung prayer

Chuck’s love of God, friends, worship, and learning superseded everything. His life’s work to discover, uncover, and spread a passion for, understanding of, New Song (the term he preferred to describe the authentic voice of worship of God’s people through our lead worship leader, Jesus Christ) across history and into the future consumed him. He longed for the Church to receive and share their rich inheritance of New Song.

Chuck was undeterred by physical setbacks. A stroke in 2010 left him with debilitating migraines, yet he fought his way to health and jumped back in completely. Recently, he struggled with other illnesses, but even then, he was still planning his next project and continuing the conversations to inspire others about worship and the networked church.

Fromm’s legacy is a passion for the Triune God, devotion to lifelong learning, a delight in the experience and knowledge of others around worship, communications and technology, and a mission to share what he discovered with worshipers and those who lead in worship. He displayed an unwavering commitment to see the Church worship deeply and completely and his earnest desire was to be part of the construction crew building “the house of worship for all his nations” (Isaiah 56:7,Jeremiah 7:11,Matthew 21:13,Mark 11:17).

In his last years he contacted friends to make sure the relationship was on a good footing, asking others for forgiveness. And on phone calls, he would end them with, “Let’s pray.”

His dedication in his dissertation demonstrates who he valued most—our LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ: “We live one breath at a time, and life is short and full of difficulties, but God is good. We are blessed with the understanding that God loves each one of us intimately and infinitely.”